Monthly Archives: June 2013

GOD IS WATCHING!

God is watching

Do you have those moments that you find yourself doing/saying something but when you look into the past you can’t quite recall where you learnt/heard it?

I have this story etched at the back of my mind; I’ve retold it severally, on many occasions…

When I try hard to remember where I got that story, I think I read it, only I’m not too sure where: God has three principal characteristics:-

He is Omniscient- I relate this to science; He knows everything.

He is Omnipresent-I relate this to presence; He is everywhere.

He is Omnipotent- I relate this to power; He is all powerful.

This basically means that we can’t outwit Him, we can’t outrun Him, and neither can we overpower Him.

As a kid I had my own fair share of inadequacies. Lying was my prime flaw. It was nothing major really, just those little lies kids tell to get out of snags. Most of the times I lied, I was trying to escape my mom’s wrath, whenever I erred. I already mentioned she was the quintessence of stringency.

Once, when I was nine, my mom was boiling water on the stove. I don’t know what it was for, but as she lay there on the couch, she asked me to cover it up. That wasn’t difficult, I took a plastic lid from the cabinet and covered it up, and I left it to boil.

A while later I went to check if the water was hot. My heart almost burst out of my chest when I walked into the kitchen; the green lid was slightly bigger than the saucepan’s rim; the flames had melted one part that had been protruding.

How was I going to tell my mom I burnt a lid? I panicked. I just took the lid and threw it in the furthest corner of the cabinet, hiding it behind some dishes. Feigning composure, I told my mom the water was ready. I deliberately omitted the part where I burnt the lid; I was afraid she was going to find out what I had done, but to my relief she didn’t. At the time our house helps had left recently and I was sure she would know I was the culprit if she found it. I only crossed my fingers, hoping…

My heart would always skip beats whenever I heard my mom in the kitchen. Eventually she found it, but after a very long time; it was a chilly Sunday morning, she was making breakfast while we were preparing for church. She was in a hurry, so she didn’t dwell much on it…she just wondered why it wasn’t thrown away and she tossed it in the bin…

Sometimes, my mom often took our backpacks just  to rummage through; to check if we were in possession of items that didn’t belong to us and if we had all the books they-she and my dad-bought us at the beginning of the term.

We didn’t know when she would conduct her search, so we had to have our things in order. If one lost a book or any writing paraphernalia, we made sure to tell her before she found out. Most of the time she would find everything in place, but a few things would afford us an intense scolding. For instance, she always ensured we had pencil sharpeners; she didn’t want us sharing razor blades with other kids, because she deemed it unsafe. Diseases could be easily transmitted through sharing of such sharp objects.

The forbidden fruit has invariably been sweeter; I found razors appealing. I preferred them to boring sharpeners, just for the simple fact that I didn’t have them. During the searches, my mom would find pieces of broken razors in my pencil pouch, and she would be all the rage… she would reprimand me so harshly, that I would be afraid of using them, even in her absence, lest someone from my class snitched on me.

That was the life I lived, playing when the cat was away; engaging in mischief when my mom wasn’t around.

I don’t know how old I was, but I know I was young because since then my life changed remarkably, when I learnt of a story; the story of a young man who had stolen from his family. He, just like me, was afraid of being reproached by his family, so he went to hide.

The young man walked into a dark cave, because he knew no one would find him there, and he was comfortable; but in the eerie silence, his inner voice reminded him that someone was actually watching him; God was watching; the cave was extremely dark, but not dark enough to hide him from God.

On that realization, he scurried out, in search of a better hide out. He settled for a small space underneath a massive rock. It was all solid, God couldn’t see him there…then that disturbing thought crept in his mind; God was still watching.

Afraid, he crept out hastily from underneath the rock scampering for a better hide out. His feet led him to the ocean. He took a plunge into the vast waters… but while in there, he figured the ocean wasn’t deep enough to hide him from God. He was still watching. He swam back to shore… there wasn’t a place he could hide; God was everywhere, He could see it all, even his secret thoughts. God had seen what he had done… and it’s His opinion that mattered.

As he sat there, he realized that it wasn’t his family’s wrath he should fear, but God’s. The lad made a resolve; he was going to ask for his family’s forgiveness…

That story changed my life…in my juvenile mischief I would remember, “God is watching”… and that would instantly halt me in my steps. The story taught me that it wasn’t my parents I should fear, but God, who sees it all.

So even when the sugar bowl was sitted idly on the table, tempting me to take a spoonful, the thought that God was watching would stop me…

I didn’t turn out perfect…actually far from it; I question some of the choices I’ve made so far… but I know one thing for sure, had I not learnt of that story, chances are I would have turned out worse. I stopped being afraid of my mom; if I made any choices with my mom in mind, it wasn’t because I was afraid of her retribution, but because I didn’t want whatever choices I made to hurt her, because I respected and loved her.

Ever since, I learnt to look at things from an entirely different perspective; I was afraid of God-in a reverential way; what He thought of me was all that mattered…till date, that has been my guiding precept.

 

WHAT’S IN A TEXT MESSAGE?

Scrolling through my phonebook, I see names; people I don’t talk to anymore. I scroll through my messages and I find texts from last year; others are from years back. Texts I exchanged with people I loved at the time, during our halcyon days. Days, when each morning I would wake up, anticipating a warm ‘good morning’ text, which would have me in high spirits all day long…sometimes we would text each other during the day; but at other times we would find our schedules too tight to find texting time; even so, we wouldn’t pass on the ‘goodnight’ texts. Life was in deed good.

Yesterday I was curled up on a three-sitter beige sofa, in front of the TV, with my phone in hand. I wasn’t watching anything on TV, and neither was I doing anything in particular on my phone…I was just fidgeting with it…my mind was far; I was in a daze. I had sub-consciously drifted back to last year; this same time last year…

Around this same time last year, there was this guy I was really into… before then, we had just been casual buddies, who texted each other once in a blue moon, just to ‘halla’. I enjoyed chatting with him, and even though a part of me was drawn to him, I realized he wasn’t as open; he would just tell me stuff that would leave me second guessing myself. He was only open if it was convenient for him. I reminded myself not to be sucked in by him; he came off as the hit and run kinda guy. The kind that would chase a girl intently, but flee the instant the girl dropped her guard down, leaving her a mass of scattered emotions.

I’ve been down that road more times than I would wish upon myself, and as with many other experiences, I was only too familiar with the adage, ‘once bitten, twice shy’; I wasn’t going to let myself fall for a guy that didn’t seem like a keeper.

He was too secretive; sometimes I would entertain the idea that he was the male version of me, because naturally I find it difficult to disclose things about myself to people. It’s ironic that somehow I still found it in me to write about myself… (Memoirs and all…).

If I had followed my heart, I would have fallen for him hard, but my sub-conscious warned me; guess that was the proverbial sixth sense- a woman’s intuition- warning me that I was headed for a precipice. So I erected ramparts around my heart. My words were only mouth-deep. Each time he texted, there was a hint of sexual innuendo in his messages, but nothing too obvious…I would heed to the red alarms in my head and downplay the texts; my replies would be relatively mundane; just the casual ‘howdy’ and weather updates. I had opted to play it safe.

In my head we were just friends. Friends don’t cross the boundaries to the erotic side, I would tell myself, just to keep myself grounded. Sometimes it would work, but at times I would succumb to my human weaknesses and find myself dancing along to his erotic tunes. It was dangerous, but fun…

I didn’t realize when the rampart came down and I started wondering if he was really the guy for me; maybe he was my soulmate…after a careful analysis, I realized those were just my hormones doing their rounds…my wits were screaming, “He’s a player! He’s a player!”

Maybe he realized I was being weary of him, because our once-in-a-blue-moon texts became daily good morning and goodnight texts. They were soulful. In a way, they made me privy to his warm, loving side that wasn’t all about ‘the physical’… I loved them… I would send him equally soulful texts…

The texts bonded us more than I had anticipated; our conversations started to feel meaningful; they felt deep.

If ever I was troubled in the middle of the night, I would text him, because sometimes he was working night shift…and lovingly, he would pacify me…it felt really good.

Each time his name popped up in my head, my heart would flutter; it would pace madly, pumping endorphins-happy hormones- all through my system, leaving me a happy mess. I was entranced by him. Deep in my heart I knew I wasn’t in love with him, but I also wasn’t unaware of a looming love affair if we incubated the feelings a little longer. The thought excited me, but my ever alert sub-conscious reminded me I was treading on thin ice…

Once, he asked me if I wanted to be exclusively his…and at that point I found myself at a cross-roads; he was cute, definitely shrewd, humorous…that much summed up the qualities one looks for in a partner, but somehow, I didn’t feel convinced he was going to stick around for long… at one point I just opened up to him, maybe it was foolish of me, but I like confronting my demons head on.

“How sure I’m I you won’t just up and leave? That you won’t bail when it gets serious?”

He didn’t even hesitate, “I won’t love. I’m here to stay”.

I almost believed him, but the perceptive voice in my head told me he was telling me what he thought I wanted to hear. The promise didn’t feel real. I remained skeptical. Maybe it was my sixth sense…

All through, my head managed to override whatever emotions my heart exposed me to. I had only my toes in the water. I wasn’t sure if it was Ok to jump in with both feet…sometimes I would impeach my own judgment; maybe I’m just being over-cautious…I would think. But the minute I thought that, an encyclopedia of ‘reasons why you shouldn’t trust him’ would surface in my head. Maybe I was only myopic, but he seemed afraid of commitment.

Sometimes I would just tell him some things to test the waters and his reaction would back up my hypothesis…he wasn’t really ready for the long haul. For the better part of our acquaintance since twenty eleven, I managed to remain casual; making a few flirty remarks, jokes here and there, without getting my heart involved… that prompted him to push further…

But the minute he realized things had started getting serious, he started bailing… I noticed that early enough, luckily. Once, I texted him, “I miss you”…it was early November; I’d never told him that before…I never wanted my emotions exposed; I didn’t want to feel vulnerable; to hurt, if whatever was budding between us went awry. I had been walking on the safe side all along, but somehow that night I just let my heart rule for a second…I hit send…

I bet he realized things were really getting serious, because after that he went silent for three weeks. Funny thing is I didn’t even hurt; I was piqued, but not in the heartbroken kind, just disappointed that after all my gut feeling had been right all along. He was afraid of commitment. I didn’t have to do the over-indulging on chocolate and staying in pj’s pity party. I had seen that train approaching from a distance…

When he texted again, it was like he never received the previous text…it was the have -a- good- day kinda stuff; nothing sentimental. I could tell he wanted it to sound sweet, but I knew that was a relationship that wasn’t worth investing in. It was over before it started.

what's in a text message

Last we talked on a ‘personal note’ was on my birthday, in mid-December, last year. Ever since, we have dialed down our relationship to the casual friendship we had before. Sometimes I feel there could be something amazing waiting to be explored, but I can’t help the intense warnings…in a relationship, passion isn’t just enough.

I snapped back to reality when my road down memory lane came to an end… the phone was still in my hand. I scrolled to the messages; some texts we had exchanged; I had saved seventy of them. We hardly talk nowadays, but I still hold on to them. Every time I decide to delete them my thumb feels numb; it refuses to co-ordinate with my brain when I will it to press ‘delete’.

I wonder, what’s in a text, that makes it so alluring? When I read them, they take me back to those happy days…when I proudly called him mine…

FAMILY GET-TOGETHERS…

family get together

A while ago my dad was here, asking if my sisters and I decided to accompany him to his granny’s-my great grams- this coming Sunday. He had been telling us about the trip for the last week… I didn’t even feel an ounce of remorse as I shook my head, “No, we’re not going”. I know he feels bad that we won’t be going, but there are things one can’t feign; affection for instance, especially if one has had to fake it for a long time.

My great grams was endowed with a big family; honestly I don’t even know how many children she has, not out of ignorance, but because generally my extended family happens to be one of those very dysfunctional ones. I think she has eight children, of whom I’ve only met three-my paternal grandma, her sister and their last born, who is so young, I bet he’s my dad’s age, in his early fifties.

Every time I think of my great grams, who I suppose is in her late nineties, I see God’s favour. She has lived to see her great-great grandchildren; the fifth generation. When I was ten she was walking on her own two feet, and loved dancing a lot, but now old age has rendered her blind-partially, and can’t walk on her own without being supported.

She has her own weaknesses; she’s only human, but one thing I admire about her is that she’s a deeply religious woman; she prays a lot.

The blessings rubbed off on her children too. One of her sons, who I’ve never met, but hear people praise so fondly is a retired Catholic Bishop, who now resides in Rome. My paternal grandma has been working as a teacher, and only retired when I was clearing from high school a few years ago and her sister, runs a prestigious hair salon-last I checked- and is married to an ex-politician (only by virtue of him losing his senatorial bid in the previous elections).

Honestly, when I think of my family in general, I thank God, because we have been blessed abundantly. That however, in my opinion, has made most of them so materialistic. At the risk of being accused of hanging our dirty laundry for all and sundry to see, almost all of my paternal relatives view people in terms of what they have, how much they have… and it is precisely this sensitive issue that has weakened the bond between my nuclear family and them.

Ever since my sisters and I were small, we were exposed to so much ‘hostility’ from the rest of the family, simply because we were not rich enough…

When I tell my dad we won’t be accompanying him, he looks evidently hurt, even though he tries hard to mask it behind a façade of equanimity, and I try to understand him. That’s his family, but they don’t treat us as family. We severed our ties with them because they were treating us like pariahs; they were insufferable. For years, we listened stoically as they defamed us, we watched patiently as they treated us like crap…until we could stand it no more; when my sisters and I were kids, we always wanted to fit in, but as we were growing up, we realized that was not the kind of life we wanted to live; always sucking up to people…pretending we were happy when in real sense we were hurting inside…

Somehow, they forgot we had emotions; they trampled on us ruthlessly, but we couldn’t hate them… hate was too strong a feeling to habour against them, it didn’t feel worth it…so we flipped those switches; we stopped hurting, nothing they did affected us anymore… we became indifferent. We kept our contact with them to a bare minimum.

The last time we accompanied my dad to his gram’s was seven years ago. It was during the Easter holiday. My mom didn’t come along. She only attends extended family functions when it’s really necessary… that was just another of the ‘unimportant’ get-togethers they had decided to host, just to eat roasted meat and beer. They always met up every Easter but never invited us, except for that one time.

My sisters and I were excited; we knew they didn’t love us as much, but we had finally decided to bury that hatchet. We would do our best –on our part-to promote cordial ties between us and the rest of the family (I’ll save the details for another day, but in a nut shell, the chasm runs way back in time, long before I was born… but it has extended to our generation- our cousins and us).

We didn’t want any bad blood between us, so when we left for my great gram’s that chilly morning, we had decided to play nice. When we got there on a warm Saturday afternoon, the compound was packed. Most of the faces were new to me. Her house couldn’t contain all of us, so they had put up a gargantuan tent-in front of her front porch- enough to hold people from four generations.

Even as we walked around the place, inhaling the uncontaminated countryside air, we could feel that aura of unfamiliarity around us; we were like aliens. Our relatives who had never met us regarded us with so much affection, holding us in very high esteem, but as usual our immediate extended family treated us with disdain; doing what they do best to make us feel out of place… by the time the sun started sinking into the horizon, alerting us that it was time to disperse to our respective homes, I was already so bored… I couldn’t wait to go back home.

While preparing to leave, my sisters and I were already sitted in the car, when we heard that all the cousins had been invited for a sleep over at my gram’s-my dad’s aunt-place. We were almost elated, until we learnt that everyone had been invited, except us; the lowly couldn’t mingle with the moneyed. At the time my grandpa was actively into politics. My granma-his wife-was still basking in that glory. As far as she was concerned, we were paupers…we didn’t fit in her social circle…

I was heartbroken; I almost shed tears, but I willed myself to be strong; I wasn’t going to break down for such a petty issue; it wasn’t the first time they were discriminating against us, and it wouldn’t be the last. We had to be strong.

When we got back home, it was close to midnight, but my mom hadn’t gone to bed, she had waited up for us… when she opened the door, I saw her face and all the emotions I had been suppressing throughout the day came flooding back. I clutched my arms tightly around her, almost crying, but I wouldn’t let tears flow on their account. A few unruly tears escaped my moist eyes, and I wiped them furiously with the tips of my fingers; they weren’t worth this pain in my chest.

We sat in the living room, updating my mom on the day’s events. She was hurt, that they dared treat us like we were worth nothing, but she didn’t say much.

“Don’t worry, it’s all in God’s hands”, She smiled comfortingly, her pain palpable. As we went to bed that night, we vowed to never attend any of those get-togethers again. If they were only meant to hurt us, we had no problem steering clear of them…

 

 

I KISSED MY FATHER? part two

storm in a tea cup

When the two teachers had interviewed me enough, they asked me to go back to class.

I walked back to class, deep in thought… how could the seemingly learned teachers interrogate me intensively about such a trivial issue. What if I had brazenly french kissed my beau? Would that have triggered my expulsion?

I was perplexed by the whole scenario. I only hugged my father… and now they were forming a united front against me. By the time I got to class I was bordering on outrage. Girls were asked not to hug or kiss men, to avoid situations where one situation led to another…

But this was my father we were talking about- an innocent father/daughter hug. He would be grossed out- like I was- if he knew what the teachers were insinuating.

Nonetheless, I went back to class…glad they were done with the peeving interrogation.

My classmates were wondering what the fuss was all about… so I briefed them on what was happening. They just sympathized with me. I took out my books and went on with my revision. I bet the teachers didn’t have anything important to do, as minutes later they were pursuing me again… this time round I was supposed to see the principal in her office.

You know, the good thing about knowing you’re innocent is that even when things seem to be getting out of hand, one feels some inexplicable calm, because they know that they will be found blameless eventually. That’s how I was feeling as I walked down the steps from my class and on the corridor to the principal’s office.

When I reached her office I knocked on the door with some trepidation, I couldn’t help wondering if she would suspend me or something of the sought, depending on what she had been told. She asked me to go in. I had been there so many times before (not for mischievousness); when I walked in I felt Zen flow in my veins; I felt calm…as I looked at the principal, seated behind her desk, with all the trophies the school has ever been awarded sitted on shelves, I realized she didn’t look vengeful; she simply wanted me to give her an insight into what had actually transpired.

“Good afternoon Madam,” I greeted her.

“Good afternoon to you,” she replied softly. There wasn’t a hint of anger in her voice. That boosted my courage.

“I was told you called for me?”

“Yes,” she said, almost harshly. “I’m made to understand you kissed a man,” she paused waiting for her words to sink in. “Care to explain? Who was that man I’m told you kissed?”

Confidently, I looked her straight in the eyes as I replied, “That was my father. And I didn’t kiss him; I only pecked him on the cheek.”

“But I’m told you kissed him on the lips”, she looked amused as she said those words.

“I only pecked him on the cheek Madam,” I reiterated firmly.

The principal didn’t know whom to believe; a teacher or a student… “Go call him,” she ordered. Obediently I walked to the staffroom… the two teachers were still seated there, possibly discussing me… I didn’t care…

I knocked on the door then walked in, and went straight to the teacher who had created a storm in a tea cup. “The principal would like to see you in her office”, I told him, feigning humility, because my insides were waging war against him. I have never been one to castigate people, but as I looked at him, I realized he was the diffident type. He was soft spoken too. His personality had everything to do with the matter at hand. I deduced.

I didn’t know him much, as I had never been to any of his classes, and as an individual, he was one of those who were too reserved to be the subject of any scandalous gossip among students. I had never had a one-on-one encounter with him, until then. We had definitely started off on the wrong foot.

Compliantly, he stood and left for the principal’s office. I walked behind him. He sat on one of the guests’ sit while I remained standing.

The three of us were in the principal’s office, the truth would finally out.

The principal set the ball rolling. “She says she didn’t kiss him, she only pecked him on the cheek”. She looked at him quizzically, “So what happened exactly? Did she kiss him or she just pecked him?”

“Madam, I don’t know the difference”, he admitted, almost abashed. Maybe I saw wrong, but the principal smiled amusedly.

“It’s ok, you can leave now”, she dismissed him.

The principal wanted to ensure she was making the right judgment…so she asked for my mom’s number, and she called her as I stood there. “Hello”, she answered when the person on the other end of the line picked up. I assumed it was my mom because that was her number.

I couldn’t make out what she was saying; I could only hear my principal’s side. She asked her if she was my mom and obviously she (mom) affirmed because the conversation went on.

“There’s a man who came here to see your daughter?” she said inquisitively. I didn’t hear what my mom said, but when the principal hang up, she dismissed me too.

“Have a lovely afternoon”, I smiled before leaving her office. It was all over. I had been found innocent.

Even though the principal cleared my name off such preposterous allegations, the matter never died down. Teachers told the story in the classes…I became the principal subject in literature. My friends from other classes would tell me how a teacher in their class told them about me- the girl, who kissed her father. Everyone in school knew me pretty well, as I was a prefect; I was well aware that they wouldn’t have any difficulties putting a face to the despicable, corrupted, version that each teacher told-altered to their liking.

The ensuing week, as I passed by the staffroom, my history teacher asked me to see her later that day… I agreed, but I didn’t go; I assumed she wanted to discuss matters kissing men…I had had enough of the appalling palaver.

My netball coach, who was awfully loquacious, also partook in the lunacy as he spread the gospel; how I kissed my father. Once, he brought up the issue as he conducted our Friday devotion in church. I hadn’t been privileged enough to hear any of the twisted versions, until I heard it from him-one of the horses’ mouth.

Apparently, they had understood that it was my dad I had hugged, but it’s that kinda lifestyle they didn’t seem to agree with; fathers hugging daughters?

As I listened to him speak, my fists clenched tightly as anger welled up in me. They had no right to dishonour my family with such scathing words… how could he? I almost stood from the pew I was sitted on, to lash back at him; to give him a piece of my mind…but at that moment a thought crossed my mind; if I let the words gush out of my mouth, he would feel so emasculated, he would instantly instigate my expulsion. I had only a few months left before I sat my final exam; I wasn’t going to taint my reputation over such trifles…

It hurt me a lot, that people could be so unfeeling… but later on, long after I had cleared from that school, I found it in me to forgive them. It is their values that made them judge me so harshly…I understood that.

I KISSED MY FATHER? part one

hugged father

If I was a conformist, if I did what others expected of me, or what everyone else was doing, I probably wouldn’t get into so much trouble, like I have so far. I believe it’s right to break some rules, if it’s imperative.

The high school I joined was an all-girls Catholic sponsored school. Teachers were strict. The principal and her deputy were zero-tolerant to any form of misbehaviour.  If on closing day any of the two bumped into a student engaging in inappropriate behaviour outside the school precinct, say hanging out with boys, while still in their uniform, the particular girl would receive her punishment when schools opened.

I remember my high school a lot…mostly for all the wrong reasons…

One Saturday afternoon, when I was seventeen, in my last year of high school, I found myself in the principal’s office, in a situation which I thought was pretty awkward.

“Who was that man I’m told you kissed?” The principal asked sternly, her serious gaze fixed on me. She was looking straight into my eyes, I guess to sight any traces of insincerity… I returned her gaze; I had nothing to hide…

Almost two hours earlier I was sitted in class, revising for my final exams. The sun was out, and even though I was sitted in a brick classroom, I couldn’t help feeling the heat. It was making me feel lethargic… I was sleepy.

The mention of my name by the teacher on duty that week as he stood on the doorway alerted my senses. I sat upright, wondering what offences I could have committed. Before I could complete a mental review of my conduct that week, the male teacher asked me to follow him to the office.

“You have a visitor,” he told me before I could ask why I was being summoned to the office. That was quite unexpected. As I walked slightly behind him, my focus shifted to the person who may have deemed it necessary to visit me that hot afternoon. After a meticulous elimination I was left with two options…it was either my dad or mom.

My guess was right, it was my dad. He was standing outside the staffroom. It was a Saturday, so I knew that there were only a few teachers in there, and whoever they were, their eyes would be on us. The thought made me uneasy. They were whizzes at scuttlebutt.

I was so elated to see my father, I couldn’t contain my emotions. I almost hugged him, but then I remembered all the counseling sessions the other first years and I had been taken through three years ago, when we joined the school, cautioning us against hugging and kissing males. When the head of our counseling department had taken us through those sessions, I found them misleading and I knew one day breaking that rule would land me in unmitigated trouble. It was all smooth sailing; my voyage had been uninterrupted by any stormy waves, until now…

With those particular sessions pounding at the back of my head, I realized I didn’t want to get myself in trouble for something I could avoid; I only extended my hand in greeting to my father, who was equally happy to see me. He didn’t pull me into his warm fatherly embrace either, he understood- I had told him about it earlier.

His visit was brief. He had just come to bring me pocket money as the previous term I had used my tuition fee on miscellaneous expenses in retaliation when they failed to show up on visiting day. He didn’t want a repeat of the same, so he opted to check up on me in advance, to see if I needed anything.

Twenty minutes later he was on his way back… When parting with him, I realized I wasn’t going to pass on a tradition-hugging my father- just to please others. It felt like I was turning my back on the essence of who I was; I chose to do the forbidden, and let the chips fall where they may. I threw my arms around my dad, and pecked him on the cheek. He enveloped me in his loving arms, in the perfect father/daughter hug.

I went back to class, reveling in the joy of being with my father. Not everyone admits it I know, but take it from me, being in boarding school is just hellish. The first half of the term is spent nostalgically, reliving memories of the holiday that was, and the last half is spent, with one planning the fun things they’ll do when schools close. That’s pretty much how I felt about the ‘boarding’ issue… Personally, I found life in boarding school almost unbearable because it felt oceans away from home; it was really far, and life there was so different from what I had been used to. It was literally, world’s apart.

When I went back to class I was busy sharing my excitement with my deskmate, who was my bestfriend, when barely five minutes later I was summoned by the same teacher on duty. This time round he didn’t tell me anything; I just followed him silently, waiting for hell to unleash. I didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know it was because I hugged my dad…

He asked me into the office, where he sat beside my chemistry teacher. I was in the grip of ‘don’t give a rat’s ass’ mood. I had hugged my father, and I wasn’t sorry about it. If I was given a second chance, I would still hug him…

As I stood there in front of the two-teacher panel, I laughed in my head…it was just preposterous.

“Who was that man?” “Where does he work?” The questions kept trickling in. If I didn’t know better I’d think they were vetting me for the school’s headgirl’s post.  I answered each one of their questions, unambiguously, leaving nothing to chance.

I couldn’t help wondering why they were asking me all those questions… maybe they just wanted me to clarify what they already knew because I couldn’t fathom how they would let me see him if they didn’t have answers to all those questions they tabled in front of me…

 

HOW FAST BABIES GROW…

baby boy 1

I’ve found a new admiration for babies. A few months ago, a friend visited with her baby. The last time I’d seen them, her adorable son was still learning how to walk; he had just realized the joy of standing on his own two feet as opposed to crawling. He had grown up so fast.

When they had visited previously, he couldn’t stay in a room if his mom wasn’t in it; he was always looking around to see if he could spot his mom anywhere; if he did he would go on with his business, playing without the slightest care in the world; however, if he didn’t, he would become tremendously restless, and would start wailing uncontrollably.

At one time during their previous short visit, his mom left him in our –me and my sisters’- care as she went out on a date with a guy she’d met recently. when she left her seventeen months old baby boy was deep in slumber, so he remained oblivious to his mom’s absence; I watched admirably as he lay on the bed peacefully, away in a land of his own… I wonder if babies dream…

It was all rainbows and unicorns, until he suddenly woke up from his short nap, wailing, calling out, “Mama, mama…”

I panicked; his mom had already left. I didn’t know what to do. I had hoped he would sleep, atleast until she got back… well, shock on me.

I remembered what my big sis always tells me; to always take a moment to breathe in deep; take a long  inhale, then exhale slowly… to calm down, when I find myself in a panicky situation, like the one I was in at the moment. I did just that. When I was certain I was feeling collected, I picked him up. Funny thing I noticed with babies is that they could cry for long and only shed countable tear drops. He cried, cried, then paused; I thought he was all cried out…and when I was about to start thanking my lucky stars that he had finally realized his mom wasn’t showing up, he started crying again, this time louder than before.

Apparently he had just paused to revitalize his healthy lungs… I tried everything from feeding him milk, to rubbing his back gently, hoping it would calm him down; but it was all for naught.

Then luckily, his eyelids started closing; he was falling asleep. I started feeling relieved. “Thank God,” I sighed. His eyes finally closed. After a while I put him down on the bed, but as I pulled my arm from underneath him, he woke up, crying…

My sisters came to my rescue, but nothing we did could calm him down; he was just asking for a teensy weensy thing- his mom. “Is that too much to ask?” I could almost hear his distressed thoughts amid that noisy wail… I pitied him…

When we had run out of baby soothing options, we resulted to ‘mommy 911’. I rang his mom… telling her to come back soonest she could, because her baby wouldn’t stop crying. She, obviously, was none too pleased about it-we had cut her date short- but we had given it our best shot, all to no avail.

An hour later the baby was still crying, and his mom was nowhere in sight. It was frustrating.

When she showed up later, I couldn’t believe the instant change when his mom picked him up… the baby, who had cried for a duration possibly longer than all my crying moments summed up, stopped crying and a wide grin plastered across his face, as contentedly he called, “Mama…”

It was undoubtedly a happy reunion; for him atleast. His mom took him on her laps and she nursed him. He even looked playful as he suckled. I could not comprehend how it had all happened. He was happy, had I not witnessed it happening, I would have thought all the wailing had just been a bad dream.

That’s the memory I had of him, until they visited again a week after valentine’s this year. He was all grown up. At thirty months old he was walking on his own two feet… running even… The idea of moving from place to place like ‘flash’-think crawling- enthralled him. He was all over the place… turning anything he could lift into a play thing; if it was big but movable, like the foot stools, he would roll them on the floor like a tyre.

He wasn’t suckling anymore, so it didn’t bug him if he wasn’t in the same room as his mom. After lunch we moved from the dining to the living room, where we did our nails as we relived our valentine’s day. He came where I was, asking me to do his nails too. I thought it was fun, so I painted his finger nails in baby blue nail lacquer.

Evidently he loved it, because right after, he placed his legs on my laps so I could paint his toe nails too. I did. He then went and squeezed on the couch my big sis was sitted on. They were a lovely pair; I took pictures of them making faces, sticking their tongues out…

At one time I accidentally left the door open and he ran out… I had trouble catching him as he was too fast for me. If he saw me drawing close to him, he would will his tiny legs would propel him further away. I just waited for him to surrender, when he was out of breath from all the running.

If you ask me, he had really grown up fast; later that day, at sundown, I realized we’d run fresh out of milk, so I went to the shop to get some more. He stood there at the door and shouted, “I love you”… I grinned all the way to the shop and back.

He said it again when I got back… I was awed. “You really are teaching him well, “I smiled at his mom, who was loving how fascinated we were by her son. I know in her heart she felt proud. I would have been proud too, had that been my son.

That night, I was the one who went to bed last, as usual… I went to check if they were comfortable.  His mom was sound asleep, but he was just sitted on the bed, wide awake… I didn’t know how to get him to sleep without waking his mom up; but then I got a brilliant idea; if I switched the lights off he would slip under the covers on reflex, afraid of the dark… I went on to carry out my plan, which I soon realized was so half baked…

I had expected to see him make some rapid movement triggered by fear but shock on me; he was left seating on the bed, unperturbed. He didn’t squeal; he didn’t flinch. It’s as if he couldn’t tell light from dark.

Even when he saw my silhouette in the dark, he didn’t move a muscle…

Then it hit me, normally our fears are conceived in our minds: we relate them to some experience in our lives or just some horrifying movie we watched. He was only thirty months old, so basically he hadn’t been exposed to scary stuff.

I admired him; he wasn’t afraid of the dark… when I was small I watched horrifying movies that worked my imagination everytime I went to bed. Then I realized, what we watch impacts our lives tremendously… we are what we watch after all.

The thing he’s so afraid of- I noticed- is being spanked by his mom when he errs… other than that, everything is just bliss…

MUSIC- THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

music

I was just going through yesterday’s paper; my schedule was so tight I didn’t have time to read it, and since I like keeping myself updated on current matters, I had to make time today to read it. While reading it my small sis starts playing one of my favourite songs- fight the bad feeling- which is a Korean ballad.

The song is sang in Korean…I don’t understand the words, but when I first heard it almost three years ago, I googled the song’s translation. It’s a sad song. I don’t listen to it a lot, because it makes me melancholic; it takes me back to that painful moment when I broke up with a guy I thought I loved. At the time I would listen to the song, which-as the name suggests- is a nostalgic song, and at times I’d find myself sobbing into my pillow at night.

Regardless of it being a sad song, I related to it…it gave me the strength to overcome the misery that the breakup had inflicted on me. So now everytime I listen to it, the memories come flooding back.

When listening to that song a while ago, I remembered an article I read last Sunday, about Zahara, a South African songbird, who does her songs in Xhosa-her native language. She was giving her experience, how she broke down when performing live in front of an audience, who sang along to her songs even though they didn’t understand her language.

I don’t understand Xhosa either, but I love her songs; they are immensely soulful…

She said with songs, it’s not about the language; it’s about how one’s songs connect with people.

Music is a universal language. With songs, one doesn’t have to understand the words… or be conversant with the singer’s language. Personally, some of my favourite songs are sung in foreign languages, notably Spanish and Korean.

The good thing with the Spanish songs is that I have the basics on Spanish, but with Korean, I haven’t the slightest idea on the basics; I can’t tell A from B; that doesn’t deter me from listening to those songs nonetheless…

My favourite Korean genre is K-pop ballads…  One can feel the emotions in them; they’re almost tangible.

Then there are Spanish songs; sometimes I don’t understand the meaning, but I still love the songs to bits.

Lately I realized I’m falling in love with songs done in Rwandese… I love how the evident R’s roll out… it’s undoubtedly a beautiful language…

 

 

THE PAINS OF REARING PETS: part five

goldfish

In an attempt to rear pets, one moggie had died on our –me and my family’s- watch, and we had successfully managed to raise one for close to four years but had ended up giving her up for adoption; maybe we weren’t cut out to be pet owners…you know, these are some of those little messed up thoughts that creep up in someone’s head when they’re feeling down, and they end up depressed.

Ever since we moved, I’ve always regretted giving our Kitty up, until one evening… Two years ago, as I was heading home from work I bumped into a guy who was walking a white poodle. As I took each step towards them I couldn’t help wondering if we had done the right thing by giving Kitty up; here was a guy, walking towards me gleefully, with his dog’s leash in hand in a supposedly pet free zone. Maybe we should have defied the rules too; maybe we should have brought Kitty along.

Looking  at the pooch from far, it seemed so adorable, so harmless, but that was until I came close to it; it looked vicious…it seemed ready to sink its white, strong teeth, which met in a scissor bite into anyone; thank heavens the guy walking it had it in a leash. As they drew closer, I realized I wasn’t brave enough to walk on that same sidewalk; the poodle was cute for real, but its teeth told an entirely different story. Therefore I crossed the road to the opposite sidewalk.

Apparently, I had been so mesmerized by this adorable canine that I hadn’t seen something lying on the road, I almost stepped on it; it was the carcass of a cat sprawled on the tarmac. Some speeding driver had seemingly run him down and evidently sped off. Such cruelty… I find it sad, that there’s a 20km/hr. speed limit on the major gates leading to the estate, but some drivers take it for granted.

That horrendous sight and other similar ones made me realize that this wouldn’t have been a safe place for Kitty and her kind. The only solution would have been to keep her on a leash, but then that would have made her life impossible…  I stopped wishing we had brought her with us. If I had a choice I would have wanted her to be with us, but I realized that she was safer in her new home.

For two years after moving we stayed without any pets. None of us even considered it.

Providence had something else in store for us. One Saturday afternoon, the sky was a vast blue sheet, and the sun was shining radiantly; my sisters and I were doing karaoke, unwinding after a long busy week, when the doorbell rang. We weren’t expecting any visitors, so we got curious.

My baby sister went to get the door; it was a tall, dark, cute guy; the epitome of prince charming. In his hands he was carrying a clear plastic bag filled with water, with a couple of goldfish swimming in it.

“I’m looking for Liz, is this where she lives?” He enquired after the brief pleasantries with my sister.

“No, I’m sorry you’ve got the wrong house,” she replied, but she wasn’t sure if there was a neighbour going by that name, so she called me. I didn’t either; I did a quick mental scan of the neighbours I knew and I didn’t seem to recognize anyone by that name. I wasn’t of much help, so I left.

Allegedly, he was delivering the fish to a client. He worked in a pet shop. Jokingly, he offered to leave them to us.

“We don’t have a fishbowl”, my sister refused politely. After a while prince charming left. We dismissed his offer as a bluff.

A week later, on a Tuesday, my sisters and I had just come from school late in the afternoon. We found the door ajar; my mom was on off that day, but we didn’t know why the door was wide open, so we walked in cautiously.

To our astonishment, ‘prince charming’ was sitted, talking with mom.

“Oh, it’s you?” My baby sis greeted him; none of us could hide the disbelief. The surprised looks on our faces gave us away.

“Yeah, I came to bring you the aquarium.” He smiled.

“So you know him?” Mom interjected. We nodded.

“He told me you know him but I wasn’t sure he was telling the truth”, she explained. “I was about to send him packing”.

He hardly knew us, but the delighted expression he wore showed he was relieved to see us. “I literally had to beg your mom to let me in”.

A complete stranger was there in our living room setting up an aquarium. He was gifting it to us… just like that? I wasn’t sure I knew what was happening; it had all happened so fast. I had listened in on his conversation with my sis the first time he showed up on our doorstep and all I remembered were a few pleasantries, bluffs if you rather. So he wasn’t bluffing…

I’m a skeptic by nature; I wondered what his ulterior motive was. By the time he transferred the orange goldfish from the plastic bag into the beautiful aquarium, we had asked him so many questions; I bet by the time he left he was feeling like he’d just left a police precinct after that intense interrogation. I would be surprised if he didn’t feel that…

Maybe he was a good actor, but he appeared genuine all through. He visited regularly to check up on our new pets. At the time we didn’t know much about fish, so we called him everytime we were stuck. We called to know how often we should feed the fish, when the aquarium light burnt out we called him to fix it, he offered to wash the aquarium for us until we were confident we could do it without his help.

The first time we tried washing it we messed a little bit because before then we didn’t know why the air pump had to be placed on a raised surface. We learnt it firsthand; when we unplugged the pump from the electricity supply, water was sucked into it, because when we opened the aquarium lid we had placed the pump on a low stool. We called him to bring us a new one.

During the interrogation he had told us where he worked; mom had an acquaintance in that pet store, she called him to enquire about this ‘unexpected’ friend we’d made. He confirmed that they were in deed workmates, only that prince charming worked in a different branch. That helped diminish the suspicion we regarded him with.

Thanks to him, we had two new pets. We didn’t give them names at first, but after my big sis started playing ‘Aquarium’ on Tagged, we named the male one Chibbols and his female partner, Finley; after my sister’s “pets”.

Chibbols seemed to be growing faster than Finley. We thought it was just something natural; maybe that is how they were meant to grow. After one and a half years, chibbols looked pretty big, but Finley hadn’t changed much. Her growth had stagnated. After close observation we noticed she wasn’t eating much, she barely seemed to notice the food. One day we just found her at the bottom of the tank, dead. I didn’t feel sad as much as my baby sister did; she had grown attached to them as she is the one who fed them, cleaned their tank, and changed the water while I was working.

She looked so affected by Finley’s death; my mom couldn’t take it. She went and bought another female fish to replace Finley. We didn’t want to get so attached to them-their short lifespan had unimpressed us- so we deliberately passed on naming her. Six months later, at two years, Chibbols also died. We had started noticing slits on his fins; we later learnt that was a symptom of a sick fish. On the night he died, I realized he was swimming upside down; I’d seen Finley do that before she died, so I told the others about it.

My sister panicked; my mom called prince charming’s workmate, he was our new ‘supplier’ (time had revealed prince charming’s true self- he wasn’t genuine after all). He (the supplier) talked with my sister and unintentionally dampened her spirits when he told her chibbols was dying; and nothing could be done. When we went to bed that night we knew that was the last night time we’d be seeing him alive. So we took one last look before turning the lights off. The next morning, it was a Sunday and we were going to church. He was dead. I was overcome by grief. I hadn’t realized I had become attached to him unconsciously…

Finley’s replacement, who we call ‘fishy’, is two years old now. I must admit I love her. I know when she’s hungry; she swims up to the top, opening her mouth impatiently, and when she’s full she will just flip her tail and swim to the furthest corner or bottom of the aquarium without a care. I hadn’t planned on getting attached to her, and even as I write this I know it must sound crazy, but I love her. Years ago, had someone told me I could love a fish I’d think they’d gone loco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHERE DO BABIES COME FROM?

stork carrying baby

In January this year, I accompanied my mom to her ophthalmologist; she was going to get fit for a new pair of glasses to replace the ones she had as they had expired after the required two years duration. I was free that day, so when she asked me to take her I had no reason to turn her down.

It was mid-morning, and from the look of it, the day would be a beautiful one. The sun was out, but the cool breeze made it just the perfect day out with my mom.

By the time we got to the eye clinic, the sun was overhead; it was midday. When we walked in the place was relatively packed, but there was sufficient room for all of us. A lady dressed in a pink shirt and black tailored pants-that was their uniform- came to attend to us. She brought with her a form which my mom was supposed to fill out then after a while she took it to the main reception; she handed the form to the lady who was sitted behind the desk. The lady looked at it then went ahead to pull out my mom’s records from a shelf of neatly stacked files, which were arranged alphabetically but they couldn’t trace them, so the lady we had talked to came back with the form my mom had filled out.

It was my mom’s name they had misspelt. She went back and a while later she came with the ‘elusive’ records.

She filled out a few details then she showed us to the waiting bench. When my mom’s turn came, I didn’t see the reason to remain behind, so I walked in with my mom to the ophthalmologist’s office; she was a pretty Asian lady- judging from her appearance I presumed she was in her thirties.

We exchanged a few pleasantries and my mom and I took our seats. I took the seat next to the door while my mom took the one adjacent to the doctor’s. The doctor and my mom walked down memory lane briefly, recounting my mom’s last visit there.

The doctor handed my mom a pair of goggles which had a red lens on one side and a green one on the other. My mom, who’s already familiar with the routine put them on, facing a remote controlled screen fixed high up on the wall, that had one side coloured red and the other green. The doctor asked my mom to read some letters on the screen and she adjusted the goggle lenses based on my mom’s vision.

As the doctor controlled the screen with the remote in hand, she swung her swivel chair sideways, and then from the clear blues she mentioned she was feeling light-headed. “I think I’m pregnant”, she added excitedly before anyone of us could ask if she was unwell.” I feel this when I’m pregnant”.

“Congratulations,” mom smiled.

“I’m certain I’m pregnant,” she beamed, “I’ve been feeling this for a while now”.

“That’s your second?” Mom asked curiously.

The doctor’s face lit up, “Yeah, I still have that one son, he’s six now”. She unconsciously swung her chair sideways, “I told him his sister would be coming and he was so happy”.

Then she looked at me; I didn’t know what to say, I don’t like joining in other people’s conversations, but at the same time I didn’t want to come off as a bore… “It’s a girl?” I found myself asking.

She smiled, “We’re not sure, but I’m hoping it will be a girl.” She paused, “When my husband and I told him his little sister would be coming soon he asked where is she?” I just sat still, waiting to hear her reply. “I told him she’s in my tummy. Then he asked, how did she get in there?” The conversation was heating up. I didn’t want it to seem like I was intruding, but heavens! It was too good to resist.

When she said her son had asked where his sister was, I had expected her to tell him one of those interesting lies parents tell their kids; like, they would be getting her from the market or something close to that. But she had actually told him the truth. I hadn’t anticipated that. I thought that was brave of her.

So when I heard the ‘how did she get in there?’ part, my thoughts scattered… did she tell him about the birds and the bees? I wondered, my gaze fixed on her, eagerly waiting to hear her reply; how she manoeuvred out of that sticky situation, but she seemed a bit hesitant, I couldn’t wait any longer, “so what did you tell him?” I asked.

She turned to look at me, “I just gave him candy and he forgot all about it”. Then she turned to my mom again, to add an extra lens because my mom had said her right eye’s vision was somewhat blurry. “But I know he will be asking about it again soon, hopefully by then I will be prepared”.

That conversation took me down memory lane, back to my childhood. Kids seemingly put their parents in very uncomfortable situations, when whatever answer they need has to do with matters sex. My mom is just one of those chosen few who never go through that stage; none of my sisters and I ever asked that million dollar question, “Where do babies come from?” I’m not sure how my sisters learnt about ‘baby making’, but personally, I accidentally bumped into the answer.

After class one late afternoon, I was nine at the time; I was walking from the classroom headed home, when on the corridor I stumbled into a red book on the floor. I don’t remember what drawing was on the front cover, but it was in black. I picked the book up and flipped through the pages and I liked what I saw. The topic that particularly caught my eye was, ‘Answers parents give their children when they ask where babies come from…’

I had no idea who the book belonged to; maybe some cheeky kid had taken it to school to show it to their friends or maybe an older kid had dropped it… but I knew I had to read it all, so I put the book in my bag and took it home, hoping my mom wouldn’t see it; she always warned us against taking things that didn’t belong to us.

That evening after finishing my homework I embarked on reading that red book. I chuckled as I read about some of the white lies parents tell their kids; babies are bought from the market; a big bird comes and drops the babies right on one’s door step… Then I remembered the big birds-storks- I had seen in cartoons carrying a bundle on their beaks, and subsequently dropping it off on someone’s doorstep. The owner of the house would take the bundle, open it and find a beautiful baby staring at them.

After that, the author(s) of that book went on to explain the real thing; where babies come from. It gave a detailed explanation of the reproductive parts of the male and female anatomy and subsequently how a baby is formed when the two engage in coitus… I had taken that biology class in advance.

Just by sheer luck, I had learnt where babies come from…

Four years later, as a teenager, my teachers taught about reproduction; they were emphasizing on the topic an awful lot to ensure girls did not end up with buns in the ovens when hormones started raging at the onset of puberty. Interestingly I realized they were teaching me something I already knew. The one thing they didn’t seem to help me understand was how the baby came out…

I spent many years wondering how a whole baby passed through the birth canal into the world… I needed facts, but the people I asked weren’t so willing to divulge the details; they were prevaricating. At some point I just got tired of the undetailed answers; I thought it was time I did what I should have done ages ago; I asked my mom about it…

MY THREESOME FANTASY

threesome fantasy

Back in high school, I used to joke with my best friend, who happened to be my deskmate a lot. She thought I was nuts. When girls were busy scribbling love letters on weekends- Saturdays especially- so that our altar boys, who came from the neighbouring boy school could take them to the respective recipients after Sunday mass, I would just watch…fascinated by the whole shebang; it was really interesting…the trouble my friends went through to perfect those letters; those who were not confident about their handwriting would ask those with pretty ones to write down the letters for them…and the calligraphed envelopes? Beautiful they were…

“I fell in love at a very young age”, I would tell my best friend. “Guess that’s why I’m not interested in this things anymore”…amused by my utterances, she would burst into a loud laughter.

“You’re crazy, you know that?” She would ask after regaining her composure. I was being honest; I had already met the love of my life, when I was eight- my childhood sweetheart, who I still loved with all of my heart. At the time I never thought it would be possible to love anyone else as much as I did him. The mere thought of me crushing on any other guy other than him felt like I was cheating on him…

I realized when the heart loves, it is almost impossible to yank that person out…it just fades with time. He had my heart with him; I had nothing to offer anyone else…

Everytime I’m talking about my love life, my mind takes me back in time, when I was eight; that is when I discovered romantic love…

Long before I fell in love with my sweetheart, there were two boys in my class that I liked. I don’t know what drew me to them, maybe it was their wits; they always took first and second positions interchangeably; if one came top in our class, the other would come second. I liked them both equally, because I couldn’t pick who was best between them.

Every so often I would find myself in a conundrum; I would have to choose one eventually. That felt stressful; I couldn’t picture my life without either of them. So at my tender age, I made up my mind; I wouldn’t choose.

When we were all grown up, living away from our parents, I would marry them both. The three of us would move into one house. I envisioned our life together in years to come… we would sleep on one bed, with me in the middle… (I was so serious then, but now as I think about I find it insanely hilarious; I must have been a nascent polyandrist).

Then, I didn’t know much about ‘the big S’… my thoughts were just an innocent fantasy of a small girl crushing on two boys; but in today’s world, simply put, that would have been my threesome fantasy. I must have been really into them, because I even envisaged my two guys and I working in one office together when we were all grown up.

I saw us sitted in a beautiful office located on one of the top storeys of a skyscraper (that was my dad’s office I had in mind) with books stacked neatly on shelves, computers on each one of our desks, files piled in a tray on the corner of each desk…the beautiful sunrays streaming in through the big window.

I must have watched too much TV because in that office setting, I pictured myself in a pink suit- short skirt and a matching coat- sitted on one of the desks with my legs crossed seductively, with my two boys ogling… my threesome fantasy (sigh).